Monday, September 30, 2013

Kurt Vonnegut's theory on the shapes of stories

How can you not love Kurt Vonnegut?

This article displays the text version from Palm Sunday.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

OMG - Krugman was wrong!

But not about economics, of course.

In the 2013 paperback version of his "End This Depression Now!" which I'm finally reading, Krugman says:
If you've ever seen the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" which features a run on Jimmy Stewart's bank, you might be interested to know that the scene is completely anachronistic: by the time the supposed bank run takes place, that is, just after World War II, deposits were already insured, and old-fashioned bank runs were a thing of the past.
Actually the bank run happens before World War II, just as George and Mary Bailey are heading for their honeymoon. George uses his honeymoon money to save the bank.

By the end of World War II George and Mary have four children, the oldest of whom is 12 years old, which means that the Bailey Building and Loan bank run must have happened before 1933.

Also there's a picture of Herbert Hoover on the wall of the Bailey Building and Loan. His term ended March 1933.

I think Krugman's memory of the movie conflated the bank run with the other big bank-related panic in the movie - the bank examiner is coming and Uncle Billy lost $8,000.

Other than that it's a wonderful book, and the chapter "Bankers Gone Wild" is especially relevant to the play I'm working on.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Atlas Shrugged Book Club

At The Atlantic - I'm sorry I missed this when it first came out.

Interesting that in the first installment I agree most with a self-described conservative:
As I began reading, my first thought was that Atlas Shrugged was quite like a comic book. The characters were broadly and boldly drawn. They gave you their essence almost immediately. Virtuous characters and things are described as being angular, made of straight lines, tall, and long. The "shape of" Dagny's "mouth clear cut, a sensual mouth." Unvirtuous characters, like her brother, have "shapeless apprehension" or "muscles evading the responsibility of a shape." But by the end of the fourth chapter I had the disturbing thought that I had been reading a parody of an Ayn Rand novel. I double-checked.
I think its similarity to a comic book is exactly what keeps it popular. It's just as simplistic a tale of good and evil as any super-hero comic books, but the super-heros don't fly around (unaided) or have super strength, just super business competence, which makes it seem realistic to many.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ayn Rand really missed her chicken

I'm wading through a pile of Ayn Rand-related books I got from the New York Public Library - thank you, collectivists. Rand is a major character - or rather the specter of Rand - in the play I'm working on and I feel like I need to make sure I make no mistakes about her lest I am hounded by a pack of Rand-obsessed Objectivists.

I'd already read two biographies of Rand this summer and now I've read her boytoy Nathaniel Branden's "Judgment Day" and Branden's ex-wife Barbara's biography/memoir of Rand "The Passion of Ayn Rand" (later made into a movie starring Helen Mirren as Rand.) And I also have two collections of Rand-related essays. One, which I haven't read yet, called "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" has essays by Rand, Nathaniel Branden and Alan Greenspan, and a Rand-only collection "The Romantic Manefesto" which I have just read. Or to be honest, skimmed, because it proved to be every bit as tiresome and repetitious as any chapter of "Atlas Shrugged."

But wow, she really missed her chicken. As I've blogged about previously, according to the Heller biography, Rand's mother gave away Rand's favorite toy, a "mechanical wind-up chicken" to an orphanage when Rand was five. That incident shows up, barely changed in Atlas Shrugged, except this time Rand has an answer for her mother:
...the case of a woman with a fractured jaw: she had been slapped in the face by a total stranger, who had heard her ordering her five-year-old son to give his best toy to the children of neighbors.
It's striking how little Rand had to do with children as an adult. Of all the memoirs and biographies of Rand I've read, I don't remember a single instance of her having anything to do with a child, ever. I don't remember any member of her "collective" social circle - which was almost the only socializing she did outside of publishers - having children. And none of Rand's supermen in Atlas Shrugged had children, including Rearden, who was married for nine loveless years to Lillian. Loveless, but they still had sex out of mutual duty.

Anyway, so I'm skimming through one of the many rants by Rand against "Naturalists" of literature - she hated them at least as much as collectivists - when what to my wondering eyes should appear, in the essay "Art and Moral Treason" - Rand is going on about all the wrong ways that children were being raised in This Day and Age - which she must have learned about through magazine articles:
If parents attempt to inculcate a moral ideal of the kind contained in such admonitions as: "Don't be selfish - give your best toys away to the children next door!" or if parents go "progressive" and teach a child to be guided by his whims - the damage to the child's moral character may be irreparable.
Or maybe that child will become obsessed with the incident and attribute it to altruism, and grow up to become convinced that there is an epidemic of parents exhorting their children to hand over their best toys to the children next door.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jon Stewart forces Richard Dawkins to be a non-asshole, if only for a few moments

I have expressed my admiration for Jon Stewart many times on this blog, and Monday's Daily Show provides another reason for admiration.

To my surprise, Stewart, virtually alone among media people, actually quizzed Richard Dawkins on the possibility that religion might not be entirely the source of all violence and stupidity. Not that I think that Dawkins will learn anything from this - I think that Stewart is such a skillful interviewer, so perfectly genial, that he has produced a virtual miracle - making Richard Dawkins seem unarrogant and non-contemptuous.

Kudos to you, Jon Stewart.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ode to Joy vs. Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand wasn't content to dislike altruism and socialism, she also hated certain kinds of art - she was fine with modern architecture but she hated all other forms of modern art.

She also hated most classical music including Beethoven, whom she claimed had a "malevolent theory of the universe" which, according to her, was:
...his message is malevolent universe: man's heroic fight against destiny, and man's defeat. That's the opposite of my sense of life.
Rand did not believe in an afterlife, so what does she think death is? Victory? Or did she think one day scientists would put an end to death? But since they hadn't done it as of the 1970s when Rand said this, how could she blame anyone for having a sense of life that includes the heroic but doomed struggle against death?

The Ode to Joy scene from "Immortal Beloved"

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

All about Blue Willow

The Willow pattern, more commonly known as Blue Willow, is a distinctive and elaborate pattern used on ceramic kitchen/housewares. The pattern was popular in 18th century England, e.g. porcelain designed by Thomas Minton around 1790 and has been in use for over 200 years. The design was inspired by the china England imported from China during the late 18th century. Other references give alternative origins, such as Thomas Turner of Caughley porcelain, with a design date of 1780. Willow refers to the pattern, a specific treatment, either applied transfer, or stamp, known as transferware. Background colour is always white, while foreground colour depends on the maker; blue the most common, followed by pink, green, and brown. Assortment, shape and dates of production vary.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Finally, Autumn

Some autumn haiku by Matsuo Bashō:

The beginning of autumn;
The sea and fields,
All one same green.
In the bitter radish that
bites into me, I feel the
autumn wind

Will you turn toward me?
I am lonely, too,
this autumn evening.
 
a strange flower
for birds and butterflies
the autumn sky
 
Autumn approaches
and the heart begins to dream
of four-tatami rooms 
 
A autumn wind
More white
Than the rocks in the rocky mountain.

On this road
where nobody else travels
autumn nightfall

My way –
no-one on the road
and it’s autumn, getting dark
 
Chilling autumn rains
curtain Mount Fuji, then make it
more beautiful to see 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Louis CK vs. existential angst

As one of my Facebook friends commented, he's like a philosopher. But really, all the best comedians are.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Perfect parody

Unfortunately not a lot of people will get Caitlin Kelly's brilliant parody in the New Yorker, Janet Yellen's Harvard Speech. I especially loved this part:
There may also be differences between little boys and little girls that bear on fiscal responsibility, and which aren’t just a product of socialization. While I would prefer to believe otherwise, my experience with my own son—who insisted on playing Monopoly highly leveraged and usually ended family game night by flipping the board over, screaming that the rules were stupid, and storming to his room—tells me something.
It so perfectly recalls this section of Larry Summers' 2005 Harvard Speech, given when he was President:
So, I think, while I would prefer to believe otherwise, I guess my experience with my two and a half year old twin daughters who were not given dolls and who were given trucks, and found themselves saying to each other, look, daddy truck is carrying the baby truck, tells me something. 
And just coincidentally I was just putting a paraphrase of this bit into my play DARK MARKET about the 2008 financial meltdown, in which Larry Summers played such a prominent role.

Friday, September 20, 2013

No Joe for me

Well I inquired about a poster or print of the Joe Dallesandro photo by Victor Shrebneski and received a prompt response - no they don't have posters but I can have a large photo print for $7500.

Oh well. Here's Joe and his tattoo.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Little Joe never once gave it away

Why is it so difficult to find a fine art print of Joe Dallesandro?  Little Joe, as he is known in Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side (for the "Little Joe" tattoo on his right arm) is one of the most beautiful men who ever lived, as is obvious from photos from the early 60s - mid 70s.

I mean, I've been able to buy prints of photos taken by Astrid Kircherr of the very young Beatles. I've had two prints for almost ten years now: I bought a photo of Lennon, and another of McCartney - with Stu Sutcliff in the background of each, at the Hamburg Fun Fair - directly from Kircherr's web site. Although those prints aren't listed on the site anymore, possibly because there's an ongoing exhibition in LA(?)

In addition to being musical genii, Lennon and McCartney were also two of the most beautiful men who ever lived.

I've been looking now for several weeks for a decent fine art photo of Dallesandro and I hope I have a real chance to buy one from Victor Shrebneski who took the photo above, and which I discovered thanks to the Museum of Contemporary Photography web site.

Although the photo I would most love to have a fine art print of is the one below by  Richard Avedon - that's Joe with Candy Darling. It was part of a session with Andy Warhol stars - there was an exhibit at Gagosian Gallery a year ago which I missed. You can't get any of the photos as posters though - the best you can do are these cards. Which I might get anyway. I'm kicking myself for missing that exhibit.

Apparently the mural (which does not include the photo below but a similar one) is also in the collection of the Met, but is not currently on display.

A signed edition print of the mural was offered via Christies and sold for 50K.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Beaucoups de LOLZ

It's so hard to pick a favorite ridiculous indie rock band photo and caption.

These are some favorites...


“It’s a Victrola NOT a Gramophone! Get out of our store.”


“I hid all of my bandmates’ hats and I refuse to tell them where they are.”


“Thanks Miriam, now no one will notice my new fob watch.”




Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Happy times for me and the Krug-man

Tell it K-man
So Larry Summers has withdrawn from the Fed race. No profound thoughts here, except that it’s really, really hard to see how Obama can justify not picking Janet Yellen at this point. Nobody else is as qualified; any other choice would look like spite.
I like to imagine my anti-Summers editorial last week helped.

More gloating on the Maddow blog.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Richard Dawkins and the reverential New York Times

Naturally the New York Times Sunday Book Review is too respectful of celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins to mention the defining moment of his late career: his use of his celebrity to attack an obscure feminist atheist when she made a brief comment about being uncomfortable in an elevator with a man.

Just as the media gatekeepers prefer not to mention Christopher Hitchens' infamous Why Women Aren't Funny written for Vanity Fair (a magazine similar to the New Yorker except with half the intellect and twice the advertisements) in 2007; and President Obama prefers to ignore the Why Women are Bad at Science speech given by Larry Summers in 2005; the media overlords are not interested in Dawkins' infamous douchebaggery.

Because like Hitchens and Summers and Dawkins, the media overlords feel that it's a safe bet that you can shit all over women and get away with it, and women will stay shat on and STFU the way it's been done for millennia. Who cares if you insult half of humanity? It's the loser half, the half which doesn't have representation in the old boys media/New Atheist club.

Unfortunately for the media overlords many, possibly most people know who Hitchens and Summers thanks to their dumping on half of humanity, and people are rapidly coming to know who Richard Dawkins is for his contemptuous attitude towards women, as well as his insistence on frequently embarrassing himself in social media.

Like any good public relations firm, the NYTimes wants to present Richard Dawkins in the best possible light, promoting his book and asking him softball questions about his likes and dislikes. I found this section interesting:
Who are your favorite contemporary writers and thinkers? 
I’ve already mentioned Dan Dennett. I’ll add Steven Pinker, A. C. Grayling, Daniel Kahneman, Jared Diamond, Matt Ridley, Lawrence Krauss, Martin Rees, Jerry Coyne — indeed quite a few of the luminaries that grace the Edge online salon conducted by John Brockman (the Man with the Golden Address Book). All share the same honest commitment to real-world truth, and the belief that discovering it is the business of scientists — and philosophers who take the trouble to learn science. Many of these “Third Culture” thinkers write very well. (Why is the Nobel Prize in Literature almost always given to a novelist, never a scientist? Why should we prefer our literature to be about things that didn’t happen? Wouldn’t, say, Steven Pinker be a good candidate for the literature prize?) 
You have written several books on science and secularism. What other books on the subject would you recommend? 
Look at the list of those who obsessively attack Sam Harris and you’ll get an idea of what a dangerously effective writer he is: clear, eloquent, penetratingly intelligent, suffers no fools. Much the same could be said of Christopher Hitchens, and the attacks on him have increased now he is no longer around to fight back. 
First, I find it interesting that Dawkins counts Jared Diamond as a favorite, since Diamond's take on human culture is basically via cultural materialism, whereas Dawkins and his BFF Steven Pinker are both fervent advocates of evolutionary psychology - aka sociobiology. Those two research strategies are mutually exclusive.

Furthermore, Diamond promotes a view of human cultural diversity that is utterly despised by Dawkins' other bestie, Sam Harris:
Diamond's most recent book, The World Until Yesterday, published in 2012, asks what the western world can learn from traditional societies. It surveys 39 traditional small-scale societies of farmers and hunter/gatherers, organized in tribes or bands, with respect to how they deal with universal human problems. The problems discussed include dividing space, resolving disputes, bringing up children, treatment of elders, dealing with dangers, formulating religions, learning multiple languages, and remaining healthy. The book suggests that some practices of traditional societies could be usefully adopted in the modern industrial world today, either by individuals or else by society as a whole.
As for Sam Harris' view of anthropology, as Jackson Lears write in The Nation:
He is especially offended by anthropology. Too often, he says, “the fire-lit scribblings of one or another dazzled ethnographer” have sanctioned some destructive practice (human sacrifice, female genital mutilation) by explaining its adaptive or social function. At their worst, ethnographers have created a cult of the noble savage that celebrates primitive cultures we should rightfully scorn. His scornfulness aside, Harris is not wrong about ethnographic sentimentality, but he thoroughly misunderstands cultural relativism. He seems to think it means cultivating a bland indifference to ethical questions rather than making a serious effort to understand ethical perspectives radically different from our own without abandoning our own... Nor is he aware of the pioneering work of Christine Walley on female genital mutilation in Africa. Walley illuminates the complex significance of the practice without ever expressing tolerance for it, and she uses cross-cultural understanding as a means of connecting with local African women seeking to put an end to it.
It's also interesting that Dawkins implies, in his inimitable contemptuous personal style, that critics of Christopher Hitchens are cowards because they won't STFU while he's all dead; and that because Harris is "obsessively attacked" it indicates what a superior thinker he is.

People attack Harris because he has repugnant right-wing views and is a second-rate thinker. Only a puffed-up media-darling jingoistic old-boys-network intellectual like Richard Dawkins could be impressed by Sam Harris.

I attacked Christopher Hitchens plenty when he was alive. Unlike most people, my first introduction to Hitchens wasn't through his shitting on women in Vanity Fair, it was shitting on his former leftist colleagues by making common cause with George Bush over the war in Iraq.

And as far as Steven Pinker, I agree he should get a literary prize - the literary prize for most times a mainstream writer has called on professional racists to defend his work.

And lest Dawkins think that I will wait until he's dead to attack him, I must step up my critiques - he's 72 so I'd better get to work. 

Now at least I know why Dawkins married his wife:
I’ve been reading autobiographies to get me in the mood for writing my own and show me how it’s done: Tolstoy (at one time my own memoir was to have been called, at my wife’s suggestion, “Childhood, Boyhood, Truth”)
I didn't think anybody could adore Richard Dawkins more than he himself.

In the puff piece Dawkins trashes Jane Austin. Now I'm on the record as a non-fan of Austen, but Dawkins' reasoning is:
“Pride and Prejudice.” It must be my prejudice, and I am not proud of it, but I can’t get excited about who is going to marry whom, and how rich they are.
He then says of all writers he would most like to meet William Shakespeare:
Who are you? And how did a humble country boy like you become the greatest genius, and part creator, of our beloved English language
Presumably Dawkins doesn't like several plays in the greatest genius' oevre, though, since Much Ado About Nothing, All's Well That Ends Well, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Loves' Labour's Lost, Twelfth Night, Taming of the Shrew,  and Romeo and Juliet are all primarily about who is going to marry whom.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Once again I agree with the Krug-Man

Krugman makes some excellent observations about the general uselessness of Twitter:
But 140-character reflections on what I just ate, or something, not. Why?
One reason is that I have better things to do with my time. Another is that I don’t think my instant reactions to things are especially interesting. But I have to admit that I’ve also been aware for some time how many people end up destroying themselves by tweeting something really offensive.
This is so true as Richard Dawkins is attempting to prove. Although Dawkins has thousands of followers who adore every stupid bigoted thing he says. But occasionally his more obnoxious statements get publicized.




At least he did apologize for making the presumption that although he was OK with one of his teachers feeling him up, he shouldn't have said: "I don't think he did any of us lasting harm."

Now if he would just apologize for unleashing a thousand rabid fan boys to threaten female atheists thanks to his obnoxiousness - and then he never spoke out against those rabid fan boys.

But he won't because Dawkins is a nasty, petty, power-mongering upperclass twit, who promotes both idiotic evolutionary psychology and brutish bigotry.

Krugman provides a link to EconoLOLCats.

Friday, September 13, 2013

I am so over "Castle"

The TV show "Castle" starring Nathan Fillion is not without charm, and some of the mysteries presented in each episode are pretty well thought-out, but I finally became fed up. The Kate Beckett character was really starting to annoy me.

She started out very well - the premise is that she was from an upper-class background but after her mother was murdered she decided to become a cop. And she's a good cop and has a businessness-like and no-bullshit demeanor.

But the show has been chipping away at this character since the first season. It's as if the writers are worried that Beckett is too interesting, too unusual, to make her a worthy mate for the Castle character, so they've gradually been making her as boring and typical as possible. I was incredibly annoyed when a character says to Beckett that she (Beckett) likes to wear high heels so she can tower over the men, since high heels must be so difficult to run around in when you're chasing bad guys (and unlike real cops, Beckett spends a lot of time running after bad guys.) Beckett says she just likes to wear high heels on the job.

What sane human being is so enslaved to fashion that they would cripple themselves with sadistic footwear on a daily basis on the job, so much that they won't be able to do their job nearly as well.

I guess it's so we can all heave a sigh of relief that Beckett is a real woman and not some scary dyke.

And then a few episodes later, I began to really hate both the Beckett and Castle characters. It is an episode where a young male writer arrives on the scene and considers Beckett his muse. But Castle considers Beckett his muse, and so he invites the young writer to his house for the exclusive purpose of being mean to him - he and a couple of old man mystery writers proceed to insult and undermine the young male writer.

So the next day Beckett, instead of disapproving, tells him she likes that. And as if that wasn't enough to make me despise both characters, the young male writer decides to follow around Esposito, another cop at the precinct and the cop says to Beckett and Castle "it isn't weird for a guy to be a muse, is it?" And after he's gone Beckett and Castle agree that it is weird.

Which means that Beckett, Castle and the people responsible for this episode's script are either sexist - because while a male writer can have a female muse, a female writer can't have a male muse because it's weird for a guy to be a muse, or they're goddam homophobic because it's weird for a guy to have another guy as his muse.

And I have other peeves like the way they treat the poor actor who plays Lanie, giving her absolutely nothing to do except look at dead bodies and occasionally play the supportive black woman role to the white woman star, telling Beckett she could wear lipstick once in awhile. Not only is this annoying in itself, but it indicates that Lanie is ridiculously unobservant for a medical examiner, because Beckett's face is always completely done up and her hair is always perfect. And of course she's such a slave to fashion that she wears high heels while chasing bad guys.

The only thing that Lanie gets to do besides play second-banana is have a brief affair with Esposito - and the writers do nothing with it.

This Slate writer thinks that Stana Katic, who plays Beckett, is a bad actor, and maybe that doesn't help, but it doesn't excuse the sexist homophobic assholes who write the scripts.

I may still watch the last few episodes of season three, since I paid for them, but I can't see the point of continuing with this show, especially since this Australian critic thinks it goes downhill in season four.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Beautiful Brooklyn

My recent trip to the antique shops of the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn was technically a success - I located not one but three old-school style desks, all for $200 or less. But then I couldn't decide which one I wanted, and then I started thinking about the cost of schlepping a heavy desk back to Astoria, and then the proprietor of the shop, Yesterday's News, was too engrossed in her conversation about local politics to take my money. So I gave up and headed over to Prospect Park.


The neighborhood between the Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory of Music and Prospect Park has some of the most beautiful streets imaginable. Just amazing. Unfortunately my iPhone camera is crap so I didn't bother taking any photos. But I had some photos hanging out in my iPhone from the Spring, when my iPhone lens was just beginning to get scratched up.

Just look at this door. Amazing. And there were plenty of
other amazing doors just like it in the neighborhood

Entire blocks of amazing brownstones.

And architectural whimsy

 The BQCM is also housed in a beautiful old building - it was once somebody's private mansion, and then a Masonic club house. Check out the stained glass door.



And fancy vahses and stuff.



The subway station in the neighborhood is nothing special. But it does offer
good advice. You do not want to lose your "Blumpkins."

I have to confess that my latest foray into Brooklyn had me thinking, for the first time ever, about moving there. I've already lived in all the other boroughs except the Bronx, if you count the month I lived on Staten Island at my ex-boyfriend's apartment while transitioning from the Philadelphia area to the NYC area. (Is it really fifteen years ago?)

Of course I'd want to live in one of the more beautiful neighborhoods. No sense in schlepping to Brooklyn only to live in an ugly one - I could get that here - there's even a tumblr devoted to the visual charms of my current neighborhood - Astoria Ugly.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Richard Dawkins challenges Steven Pinker for the biggest New Atheist Ass Award

You can never count out the big three horses asses of atheism - they'll always come up with something new and repugnant.  P.Z. Myers reports on Richard Dawkins' latest atrocity:
I’ve strained to pardon Richard Dawkins’ many insensitivities — ‘dear muslima’, the missteps on twitter, the petty snits against other people — but his latest is just a disaster.
In an interview in The Times magazine on Saturday (Sept. 7), Dawkins, 72, he said he was unable to condemn what he called “the mild pedophilia” he experienced at an English school when he was a child in the 1950s.
Referring to his early days at a boarding school in Salisbury, he recalled how one of the (unnamed) masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts.”
He said other children in his school peer group had been molested by the same teacher but concluded: “I don’t think he did any of us lasting harm.”
“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today,” he said.
He said the most notorious cases of pedophilia involve rape and even murder and should not be bracketed with what he called “just mild touching up.”
I can think of some lasting harm: he seems to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children. He was a victim of an inexcusable violation; that he can shrug it off does not mean it was OK, or ‘zero bad’, or something trivial.
I think Dawkins has turned into a cranky old man. He needs to retire from the public stage now before he embarrasses himself even more.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I discover Stewart Lee

I learned who Eddie Izzard was around 2004, and I discovered Ricky Gervais in 2007, although I didn't come to appreciate him until 2011.

And now I have finally discovered Stewart Lee, thanks to Rebecca Watson of Skepchick (and mortal enemy of Richard Dawkins), who linked to Lee's brilliant take-down of the Top Gear show (which to be honest I haven't seen.) Stewart Lee is the frustrated bitter politically correct middle-aged liberal of my dreams.


I do find him attractive, but when he was younger he was freaking adorable.


Monday, September 09, 2013

Zombie race on Lon Guyland

I went to Riverhead to see my daughter and some friends participate in the Zombie Race. They had a good time and got covered in mud and had a beer at the end. What's not to like?

I didn't participate - I was there mainly to document the whole thing.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

C-Span Videos Research

I checked out C-Span's video archive to see if I could watch some of the videos I've seen of congressional hearings in Inside Job and the Frontline episode The Warning. The most significant of these apparently happened on July 24, 1998, but I haven't found videos of Greenspan or Brooksley Born for that day.

The earliest C-Span video featuring Born is from congressional testimony on Hedge Fund Operations Risks from October 1, 1998.

At the top of this clip, the chairman of the hearing, Jim Leach says:
For a return visit on a similar subject, Miss Born. You're welcome to claim some vindication if you want.
To which Born replies:
I certainly will not do so Mr. Chairman.
The reason Leach says this is because Born had been warning of the lack of regulations in the financial industry, including hedge funds, for years, and the failure and the September 1998 bail-out of Long-Term Capital Management had proven Born had been correct. As it says in Wiki:

Long-Term Capital Management did business with nearly everyone important on Wall Street. Indeed, much of LTCM's capital was composed of funds from the same financial professionals with whom it traded. As LTCM teetered, Wall Street feared that Long-Term's failure could cause a chain reaction in numerous markets, causing catastrophic losses throughout the financial system. After LTCM failed to raise more money on its own, it became clear it was running out of options. On September 23, 1998, Goldman Sachs, AIG, and Berkshire Hathaway offered then to buy out the fund's partners for $250 million, to inject $3.75 billion and to operate LTCM within Goldman's own trading division. The offer was stunningly low to LTCM's partners because at the start of the year their firm had been worth $4.7 billion. Warren Buffett gave Meriwether less than one hour to accept the deal; the time period lapsed before a deal could be worked out. 
Seeing no options left the Federal Reserve Bank of New York organized a bailout of $3.625 billion by the major creditors to avoid a wider collapse in the financial markets.[23] The principal negotiator for LTCM was general counsel James G. Rickards.[24] The contributions from the various institutions were as follows:[25][26]
  • $300 million: Bankers Trust, Barclays, Chase, Credit Suisse First Boston, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, J.P.Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Salomon Smith Barney, UBS
  • $125 million: Société Générale
  • $100 million: Lehman Brothers, Paribas
  • Bear Stearns declined to participate.
Much of Born's speech is a rehash of her agency, the CFTC's Concept Release paper.

But even this vindication of Born didn't stop Congress from shutting down the CFTC's attempts to regulate derivatives, through its newspeak-named Commodity Future's Modernization Act of 2000.








Saturday, September 07, 2013

Big surprise - Steven Pinker is an ass again

I swear I am not constantly doing Google searches on the name Steven Pinker. Without even trying it seems like at least several times a month I read another story about Pinker being an ass - everywhere from Pharyngula, to today's New York Times:
I don’t want to talk about Colin McGinn. I want to talk about Steven Pinker — or rather, about something Steven Pinker said, in a letter he wrote in June to Professor Edward Erwin at the University of Miami, defending McGinn. Referring to the university’s threatened disciplinary action against McGinn in response to complaints from a female student, Pinker wrote that “such an action would put a chill on communication between faculty and graduate students and on the openness and informality on which scholarship depends.” 
Penalties for bad behavior include dirty looks, explicit criticism and sensitivity training. You may be subjected to blogging.
What I want to say about this is: Really? For a university to treat lewd conversation as a serious offense threatens scholarship as we know it? Aren’t we being just a tad apocalyptic?
 
To be fair to Pinker, a well-known Harvard psychologist and author, his main worry at the time was about the proportionality of the university’s response to the alleged offense — he was appalled that behavior “apparently no more serious than exchanging sexual banter with a graduate student” had been met with the academic equivalent of the nuclear option. Later, as more of the facts emerged, Pinker admitted that the alleged wrongdoing might have been more serious than he had originally thought. (Pinker apparently did not know all of the facts when he wrote this letter; he now acknowledges that McGinn “behaved badly,” but still maintains that “the outcome was too severe.”) But the fact that Pinker had found it plausible that a university would have forced out “a brilliant and distinguished scholar” just for joking around betrays some high paranoia.
Colin McGinn, in case you don't know, resigned over charges of sexual harassment:
In Mr. McGinn’s telling, his relationship with the student, a first-year doctoral candidate who worked as his research assistant during the 2012 spring semester, was an unconventional mentorship gone sour.
It was “a warm, consensual, collaborative relationship,” an “intellectual romance” that never became sexual but was full of “bantering,” Mr. McGinn said in a telephone interview. The terms of his agreement with the university, he said, prevented him from saying much more. But “banter referring to sexual matters,” he added, isn’t always “sexual banter.”
 
The student, through intermediaries, declined to be interviewed for this article, citing concern that it might damage her academic career. 
But Benjamin Yelle, the student’s boyfriend and a fifth-year graduate student in philosophy at Miami, said she had been subject to months of unwanted innuendo and propositions from Mr. McGinn, documented in numerous e-mails and text messages of an explicit and escalating sexual nature she had shown him. In one from May 2012, Mr. Yelle said, Mr. McGinn suggested he and the student have sex three times over the summer “when no one is around.” 
Both Mr. McGinn and the student declined to provide any e-mails or other documents related to the case. But Amie Thomasson, a professor of philosophy at Miami, said the student, shortly after filing her complaint in September 2012, had shown her a stack of e-mails from Mr. McGinn. They included the message mentioning sex over the summer, along with a number of other sexually explicit messages, Ms. Thomasson said.
In Pinker's case I don't know if it's so much paranoia as that it's his standard knee-jerk defense of any form of patriarchy, which he believes is the innate evolved way that humans were meant to live.

And yes, I do mean "meant to live" - although evolutionary psychologists are always banging on about how they are innocent of racism and sexism, just merely describing how things are, not how they ought to be, when you scratch the surface of their rhetoric you almost always discover that not only do they think that humans have evolved to behave exactly as people in the 21st century behave, but it's the best way for us to live.

That's why they suggest that rape victims should be told as part of their counseling that rape is an adaptive behavior, or advise governments to create a two-tier employment system to ensure that men earn more money than women.

How much you want a bet that if you debated Pinker long enough he would eventually admit that the reason we can't ask male philosophy professors to stop preying on their students is because boys will be boys and older men must naturally pursue younger women. Law of the jungle.

At this point I don't know who is the biggest evolutionary psychology/new atheist clown: Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. But Pinker is definitely doing his best to be the biggest.

UPDATE: ten minutes after I wrote this post I read this:
As I walked the ten feet back, I couldn’t hear everything Dave was saying, but I heard the name “Rebecca Watson.” Richard suddenly had a very angry look on his face and I heard him almost shout, “No, absolutely not! If she’s going to be there, I won’t be there. I don’t want her speaking.” and then Dave immediately replied, “You’re absolutely right, we’ll take her off the roster. It’s done.” Richard huffed for a moment, Dave continued to placate him, and then he made the video. 
I was crushed. I couldn’t believe it. Richard Dawkins was my hero. I looked up to him as a beacon of truth and reason in a world of irrationality. I couldn’t believe he would act this way toward Rebecca. Before I left for the tour, I truly, honestly thought that the whole “Elevatorgate” thing was a miscommunication, and if someone (and I was willing to be that someone) would sit down with Dawkins, they could explain to him why it’s uncomfortable to be propositioned in an elevator by a stranger, and then Dawkins could apologize for the whole thing and everyone could move on. I really just thought it was just ignorance, not malice, that caused Dawkins to act that way.
Let this be a lesson - never discount that asshole Richard Dawkins for biggest evo-psycho/new atheist clown.

More observations on Steven Pinker.

Friday, September 06, 2013

If Obama picks Summers he's a damn fool

And he will deserve any grief he gets over it from liberal Democrats.

The Financial Times has an article today about what appears to be the increasing likelihood of Obama picking Larry Summers for Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The article begins:
In March 2000, Lawrence Summers was due to speak to a conference of derivatives traders in Boca Raton, Florida, and tell them how government regulators should have a limited role in protecting and supervising the financial system. 
“Let me be clear, it is the private sector, not the public sector, that is in the best position to provide effective supervision,” according to the text of the then Treasury Secretary’s speech. “Counterparties and creditors have more knowledge of their counterparts, more skill in evaluating risk and greater incentives than any public regulator will ever have.”
Summers appears to have changed his tune somewhat about financial regulation, but according to the article, he's still pretty weak in many areas.

And what the Financial Times doesn't care about - and in fact it's rarely mentioned in articles about Summers' candidacy, is how much animosity Summers garnered by his "women are just not as good at math and science as men" speech when he was president of Harvard

Summers was tutored in this standard claim of evolutionary psychology by that idiot Steven Pinker, leading proponent of evolutionary psychology and friend of racists Razib Khan and Steve Sailer.

My first introduction to Larry Summers was his infamous Harvard speech. It was only much later that I realized how responsible he was, along with Greenspan and Robert Rubin, for the deregulation, especially of derivatives, that contributed to the financial meltdown of 2008, thanks to the Frontline show The Warning and the stellar documentary Inside Job.

Summers doesn't deserve to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve for that reason. But for many women it's his blatant sexism that galls the most. Just as many people know the late Christopher Hitchens primarily as the guy who said "women aren't funny", many people know Larry Summers as the guy who said women aren't as smart as men.

Obama would be a damn fool to give Summers the job. The inside job.

UPDATE: What Joseph Stiglitz said in the NYTimes.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Have I ever mentioned how much I despise Republicans?

From Wednesday's NYTimes:
When Congress officially returns to Washington next week, the diets of families like the Rigsbys and the Adamses will be caught up in a debate over deficit reduction. Republicans, alarmed by a rise in food stamp enrollment, are pushing to revamp and scale down the program. No matter what Congress decides, benefits will be cut in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires. 
Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in “food insecurity” among Americans who, as Mr. Rigsby said recently, “look like we are fine,” but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.
Surrounded by corn and soybean farms — including one owned by the local Republican congressman, Representative Stephen Fincher — Dyersburg, about 75 miles north of Memphis, provides an eye-opening view into Washington’s food stamp debate. Mr. Fincher, who was elected in 2010 on a Tea Party wave and collected nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies from the government from 1999 to 2012, recently voted for a farm bill that omitted food stamps.
 
“The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country,” Mr. Fincher, who declined to be interviewed for this article, said after his vote in May. In response to a Democrat who invoked the Bible during the food stamp debate in Congress, Mr. Fincher responded with his own biblical phrase. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.
So to recap: because an increasing number of people need food stamps to get by, Republicans are responding by CUTTING FOOD STAMPS.

These are evil, evil creatures.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Financial Sector Thinks It’s About Ready To Ruin World Again

From The Onion... or is it?

“Now that the public’s efforts to curtail questionable Wall Street trading practices have all but ceased, it’s time for us to bring the world to its knees again,” said AIG CEO Robert Benmosche. “There are still plenty of opaque financial derivatives, high-frequency trading operations, and off-balance sheet transactions out there, all with virtually no federal regulation. Trust me, we can definitely work with that. And if anything, we can always just lobby for further concessions and deregulation in Washington—which, by the way, is so, so easy to do—and then we can cause as much damage as we want.”

Added Benmosche, “And while we’re at it, we’ll make sure we once again come away from this whole thing scot-free and far wealthier.”

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Why are so many playwrights such idiots.

So many playwrights are idiots. Or have a reading comprehension problem. Either way, they shouldn't be a playwright.

NYCPlaywrights put out a call for monologues on the theme of "you put a spell on me" and it was explained in this way:
The theme: You put a spell on me.
The speaker of the monologue can be any age, gender, ethnicity, etc. but must address the theme of "you put a spell on me."
This can be approached in a variety of ways  - it could be in the romantic sense of "I'm so in love with you that you must have put a spell on me" or in the literal sense of "you used magical powers on me" - and this could be true in the world of the monologue, or the speaker could be delusional. Your choice, as long as it addresses the theme in a discernible way.
Is that so hard to understand? How many times do you have to use the words "YOU put a spell on ME" in order for it to sink in that the play has to be a monologue by somebody (ME) addressing the person who put the spell on the speaker (YOU)???

Out of the 21 submissions sent so far, I had to throw out all but 4. The ones I threw out included monologues about:

  • A spelling bee; 
  • You put a spell on your father;
  • She put a lesbian spell on me; 
  • A bizarre preacher's sermon; 
  • I think I either loved or pitied some guy;  
  • He put a spell on her, who is really me;
  • He put a spell on this woman I know;
  • I'll tell you a story about a guy, he'll put a spell on you;
  • I'm drunk and I'm attracted to you;
  • I rant to a group of people about men that I hate.
What the hell is wrong with these people?

Monday, September 02, 2013

The greyness

Back in March I talked about a mini-season that I have identified. The season comes between winter and spring, at least in the mid-Atlantic coastal region of the United States. I considered calling it "sprinter."

We are now in the beginning of the other mini-season. Sprinter occurs in the couple of weeks before the vernal equinox. This season is a couple of weeks before the autumnal equinox.

While I really like sprinter, I detest this mini-season. It always occurs right around Labor Day and it's always the same: warm, muggy and cloudy, but without the release of a cooling rain. Just this nasty grey funk that occurs off-and-on, but mostly on, in the early weeks of September. So I decided to call it "the greyness."

Sunday, September 01, 2013

More troubles for artists thanks to the US Copyright Office

The US copyright system appear to have been designed entirely for a class of people who are knowledgable about legal issues and/or can afford regular access to legal counsel. 

In addition to the troubles the US Copyright Office caused me by allowing Edward Einhorn to submit a copyright on his bogus "blocking and choreography" script - which was a derivative work although Einhorn seems to have filed the original copyright as a primary work, and removing my name entirely from registration;  those rules have also lead to trouble for the author of the Motown hit "Money."
Unbeknown to Mr. Strong, who also helped write many other Motown hits, his name was removed from the copyright registration for “Money” three years after the song was written, restored in 1987 when the copyright was renewed, then removed again the next year — his name literally crossed out.
Documents at the copyright office show that all of these moves came at the direction of Motown executives, who dispute Mr. Strong’s claim of authorship. Berry Gordy Jr., Motown’s founder, declined requests for an interview, but his lawyers contend that the original registration resulted from a clerical error, and that Mr. Strong passed up numerous opportunities to assert his claim.
 
Mr. Strong said he learned of the alterations only late in 2010 and has been struggling ever since to have his authorship officially reinstated. At stake: his ability to share in the lucrative royalties from the song’s use. But his efforts have been blocked by a provision of copyright law that says he relinquished his rights by failing to act in a timely fashion to contest Motown’s action. 
Mr. Strong’s predicament illustrates a little-known oddity in the American copyright system, one that record and music publishing companies have not hesitated to exploit. The United States Copyright Office, a division of the Library of Congress, does not notify authors of changes in registrations, and until recently the only way to check on any alterations was to go to Washington and visit the archives personally.
And the wealthy never fail to take advantage of their privileges.